Song Review: Sakurazaka46 – Dead End

Sakurazaka46 - Dead EndI love the idea of Japan’s sprawling, dozens-of-members-strong girl groups, but these large configurations make it difficult to find an entry point in the same way I can with smaller groups. Because of this, I often fall behind on releases by the various 46/48 artists. Then every once and awhile, a song like Sakurazaka46’s Dead End comes along and reminds me how potent this approach can be when firing on all cylinders.

Yesterday when writing about ITZY’s Swipe, I touched on the idea of genuine empowerment versus hollow pandering. I want to offer Dead End as a counterexample to Swipe. I also want to note that the idea of “empowerment” shouldn’t be gendered, as if female idols have to prove something their male counterparts don’t. But, it’s a buzzword these days so it’s best to tackle it head on. Though agency motives are all the same when it comes down to the nitty gritty (ie: money), I can’t help but see Dead End as a natural blast of empowering energy rather than a trendy idea of empowerment designed by agency-heads with dollar signs in their eyes.

Beyond Dead End’s authentic sense of purpose, the song itself is just really strong. As expected from the Sakamichi series, it’s overstuffed — bursting at the seams with blasts of brass, rollicking percussion and wordy melodies. But, I dare you not to get swept up in the towering sound presented here. Every element is lively and in your face, pushing the song to grow bigger and more bounding. The combination of brassy bombast, electric guitar and dynamic (almost samba) drumming craft an absolute beast of an instrumental. The melody is more one-note, but that matches Dead End’s single-minded momentum. These girls will surround you, rip your guts out and dance on the entrails. The fact that they make that such a thrilling experience is a testament to the power of their music.

 Hooks 8
 Production 10
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9

13 thoughts on “Song Review: Sakurazaka46 – Dead End

  1. this song is fire. thats all i can say.

    btw, can you recommend me some more sakamichi series songs. the only group from that series i listen to is nogizaka46, and i’ve only listened to a few of their songs. i already have route 246, synchronicity (my favorite), nobody’s fault, and Kaerimichi wa Tomawari Shitaku Naru.


    • I’m not much of an expert, but some of my favorites are:

      Futari Saison
      Kaze ni Fukarete mo
      Silent Majority
      Glass wo Ware

      Inochi wa Utsukushii
      Nandome no Aozora ka?


      • Ambivalent is horribly underrated within their fanbase, great to see it as a recc!

        You listed basically Keyaki’s entire singles run, lol. It was an extremely high quality run, however! What do you think of Kuroi Hitsuji?


    • Nick’s picks are all great! To add on:


      Naze Koi wo Shite Konnakattan Darou?

      Otonatachi ni wa Shijisarenai
      Seifuku no Mannequin
      Sekai ni Ichiban Koduka na Lover
      Girls Rule
      Wilderness World

      Sonna Koto Nai Yo


  2. So do groups like this operate on something like the NCT model – most releases are in fixed or varying sub-units? I’ve never really developed much of a taste for the larger kpop groups – large here meaning more than nine members. This song (and MV) are pretty awesome though!


    • The best analogy I have is that the 46/48 groups are like sports teams: everyone is on the same team (group) but not everyone plays every “game” (song). There are star players that will be in the lion’s share of releases but the lineup is changing.

      Sakurazaka is unique in that they have a system called the “Sakura 8”. There are 26 members in the group, and for each mini album, 8 members become the “Sakura 8” and participate in all 3 promotional songs (the ones with MVs). However, each song has 14 slots: the remaining 6 slots rotate between each promotional song, so all 26 members promote during each mini album, but in different songs. For this era, Dead End, Mugon no Uchuu and Nagaredama are the promotional songs, and Nagaredama is the title track. They all have 14 members, but 8 of the members are consistent between all 3 tracks.


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